Life advice for fellow humans

How many times have you seen a quote about seizing the opportunity, or living life without regrets? It’s come to the point where these sayings have little to no effect on us; the internet is littered with them, and they usually take the form of a syrupy sentence with the backdrop of a sunset. I tend to dismiss these hackneyed quotes of inspiration.

But today I cannot.

My grandfather has Parkinsons — has had it, for quite some time. It’s a degenerative disease, meaning it only gets tougher. Let me introduce my grandfather in another way: my grandfather was, is, a writer. He’s Irish and served for the IRA when he was younger. He’s visited more than 70 countries across the world. He’s created all kinds of pieces, articles, columns, for years. He’s published an autobiography (which caused quite a stir among our family).

My grandfather is full of stories.

He doesn’t write anymore, but his mind undoubtedly remains filled with words, overflowing, as I imagine it would when you’re an octogenarian with decades on which to reflect. This term, I had a Q&A with him in the workings, which I was all set to publish on this blog.

My grandfather and I are not extremely close, but writing has always been our shared interest. I couldn’t wait to connect with him on this level, asking him all about his works and explorations, giving him the freedom to share his thoughts through the written word, even when his hand and his pen were no longer on good terms. He was looking forward to it, according to his carer. The plan was to send the questions to his carer, who would read them to him and transcribe his answers for me, as a phonecall wouldn’t work.

When I proposed my Q&A idea to my writing lecturer, I brought up my grandfather’s condition, and how on some days communication just wasn’t an option. In short, I told her that he was getting old — a dreaded term that holds a lot of weight in just those two words. My lecturer told me that I needn’t waste another minute. “One day he won’t be around any more and you’ll regret not taking this opportunity,” she said. She wasn’t scaring me; she was right.

My grandfather suddenly grew quite ill this month, and the Q&A never came to fruition. It’s never going to happen. It’s not about getting a good blog post; it’s about that last connection we’d have had through our words and our writing. My mother and sister visited him at the hospital last weekend, and they almost didn’t recognise him. He’s home now and doing better, but I’m not going to lie and say that everything is completely fine. Maybe if I’d come up with this Q&A idea sooner, we’d have been able to do it. My grandfather would have loved to share his tales with me, a personal publication to add to his repertoire. But it’s too late, and I’m struggling to shake off the regret that clings to me, like a cold and clammy web, reminding me that time is fleeting and things never stand still.

All is not lost, however: I wrote a letter of thanks and farewell, and sent it to his carer to read to him. I may not ever see my grandfather again, but knowing that he heard (and apparently enjoyed) my last piece of writing to him is a genuine comfort. Those corny sayings are onto something, I’ll admit. Seize opportunities and don’t waste time, but here’s my own phrase for you: be ready to let go of regrets. When my grandfather and I exchanged our writing, we understood each other, and that’s a memory I’ll cherish always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Header image: Guinevere Shapiro

 

 

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